Category Archives: Around the Majors

BBA Announces Connie Mack Award Winners

Earlier this week I posted my ballot for  the year end BBA awards.  The votes have been tallied for the first award, and below is a copy of the press release outlining the winner of the Connie Mack Award for Manager of the Year.  Apparently I was the only one who liked Charlie Manuel…

 

WASHINGTON, BLACK WIN CONNIE MACK AWARD

Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers and Bud Black of the San Diego Padres were named winners of the Connie Mack Award by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, noting them as the best managers in their respective leagues for 2010.

Washington, who weathered a drug controversy in spring training, led Texas to their fifth divisional title since 1994 and their first since 1999. While the voting was based on his regular season accomplishments, Washington also guided his team to their first ever postseason series victory when they eliminated the Tampa Bay Rays in five games in the American League Divisional Series.

Washington received ten first place votes in route to accumulating 74 total points. He edged out Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who received 67 points.

In the National League, Black’s guidance of a Padres team almost universally expected to finish last to first place most of the summer helped him edge Dusty Baker of the Cincinnati Reds by the slimmest of margins. The fact that the Padres fell just short of the playoffs while the Reds won the NL Central helped lead to the tight race. Black garnered nine first place selections and 53 total points to Baker’s seven first place nods and 51 total points.

The complete voting results are as follows (first place votes in parenthesis):

American League

Ron Washington, Texas (10) 74

Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota (7) 67

Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay (4) 35

Terry Francona, Boston (3) 20

Cito Gaston, Toronto 9

Buck Showalter, Baltimore 9

Joe Girardi, New York 2

National League

Bud Black, San Diego (9) 53

Dusty Baker, Cincinnati (7) 51

Bobby Cox, Atlanta (2) 33

Bruce Bochy, San Francisco (3) 29

Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia (1) 27

Brad Mills, Houston 3

Mike Quade, Chicago 2

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance was formed in the fall of 2009 to encourage cooperation and collaboration between baseball bloggers of all major league teams as well as those that follow baseball more generally. As of this writing, the organization consists of 224 blogs spanning all 30 major league squads as well as general baseball writing.

The BBA is organized under a similar structure as the Baseball Writers of America, where blogs that follow the same team are combined into “chapters” and only two votes from the chapter on an award are counted. The blog chapters that are focused on general baseball were allowed two votes as well, which they could use both on the same league or split between the two leagues.

Chapters generally followed one of two methods when casting their ballot. Either representatives of the chapter were given the ballots for voting or a “group ballot” was posted, accounting for both of their votes.

Ballots are posted on the respective blogs and tabulated on a 5-3-1 point scale for first, second and third. In the interest of transparency, links are given below for the ballots. Chapter affiliation is in parenthesis. Those chapters that decided on the group method are noted with an asterisk.

American League

Camden Crazies (Baltimore)*

Boston Red Thoughts (Boston)*

Toeing The Rubber (Boston)*

The Tribe Daily (Cleveland)*

Motor City Bengals (Detroit)

Switch Hitting Pitchers (Detroit)

One Royal Way (Kansas City)

Seth Speaks (Minnesota)

Bronx Baseball Daily (New York)*

Contract Year (Oakland)

Jeff’s Mariners Fan Blog (Seattle)

Rise of the Rays (Tampa Bay)

Baseball Is My Boyfriend (Texas)*

The Blue Jay Hunter (Toronto)

500 Level Fan (Toronto)

Advanced Fantasy Baseball (Fantasy)*

Misc. Baseball (History)*

Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (Other)*

Blogging From The Bleachers (General)*

National League

Prose and Ivy (Chicago)*

Cincinnati Reds Blog (Cincinnati)

Astros County (Houston)

Feeling Dodger Blue (Los Angeles)

Bernie’s Crew (Milwaukee)*

Brewers Bar (Milwaukee)*

The Eddie Kranepool Society (New York)*

Dugger’s Corner (Philadelphia)

Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke? (Pittsburgh)*

i70 Baseball (St. Louis)

The Outfield Ivy (St. Louis)

Friar Forecast (San Diego)*

Advanced Fantasy Baseball (Fantasy)*

Misc. Baseball (History)*

Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (Other)*

Blogging From The Bleachers (General)*

Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf (Miscellaneous)*

Prior Winners

2009: Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles of Anaheim; Jim Tracy, Colorado

The official website of the BBA is located at www.baseballbloggersalliance.com. The BBA can be found on Twitter by the handle @baseballblogs and by the hashmark #bbba. Members of the BBA may be heard at Blog Talk Radio every Tuesday night with their call-in show, BBA Baseball Talk, which may also be downloaded as a podcast from iTunes. For more information, contact Daniel Shoptaw at founder@baseballbloggersalliance.com.

500 Level Fan’s Baseball Bloggers Alliance Awards Ballot

With the regular season over, it’s time to vote on the winners of the major baseball awards.  This year, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) has released five major awards to recognize the top manager, rookie, reliever, pitcher, and most valuable player in each league.

Without futher ado, here is my ballot for who should win each, along with two honourable mentions in each category.

Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)

American League – Ron Washington, Texas Rangers

In 2009 the Rangers finished 87-74, but nine back of the Angels in the AL West.  After Washington was nearly fired in the off-season for having a positive cocaine test made public, he sought (and received) forgiveness, then went out and lead his team to 90 wins and a western division title.  He made several big decisions such as installing a rookie as his closer (Neftali Feliz), managing a patchwork rotation consisting of a former Japanese league player (Colby Lewis), a converted reliever (C.J. Wilson), and a broken Canadian (Rich Harden), and juggled his lineup to survive most of September without two All-Stars (Josh Hamilton, Elvis Andrus).

Honourable Mention – Cito Gaston (Blue Jays), Ron Gardenhire (Twins)

National League – Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia Phillies

I know many might criticize this pick, because the Phillies were supposed to be the best team in the league, and ended up being the best team in the league.  It is the old Cito Gaston conundrum from the early ’90’s, where “anybody can manage that team”.  But I’m not convinced the Phillies win without Manuel.  Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Placido Polanco were hurt much of the year.  Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino had down years compared to ’09.  And outside of Halladay and Hamels, the rotation was below average.  Yes, the late season acquisition of Oswalt was huge, and yes the team became healthy in September.  But Manuel kept them close to the NL East lead before that happened, and he deserves credit.

Honourable Mention – Bud Black (Padres), Bobby Cox (Braves)

Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year)

American League – Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers

Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch of the Tigers both had great years, but I’ll take Feliz.  A 22-year old playing the most pressure packed position in baseball for a playoff contender?  With stats like this – 40 saves, 2.73 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 71 strikeouts and 18 walks in 69.1 IP?  No-brainer.  

Honourable Mention – Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch (Tigers)

National League – Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

Two deserving candidates for this award: Jason Heyward of the Braves and Posey.  Their numbers are very, very similar:

Heyward – .277 avg, .849 OPS, 18 HR, 72 RBI

Posey – .305 avg, .862 OPS, 18 HR, 67 RBI

Plus they both lead their teams to playoff births.  But Posey takes it because a) he put up those numbers in fewer games, b) he played catcher, a much more difficult position, and c) before he arrived SF was 25-22, in third place.  They went 67 – 48 the rest of the way to win the division.

Honourable Mention – Jason Heyward (Braves), Jamie Garcia (Cardinals)

Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)

American League – Rafael Soriano, Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay’s weak spot in 2009 was the bullpen, but one single free-agent signing transformed that weakness into a major strength.  Soriano was installed as the Rays closer, and dominated.  He lead the AL in saves with 45, had an ERA of 1.73, a 0.80 WHIP, and 57 strikeouts to only 14 walks.  He is one of the major reasons the Rays are AL East champions for the second time in three years.

Honourable Mention – Joakim Soria (Royals), Neftali Feliz (Rangers)

National League – Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants

It seems like such a cop out to give the Top Reliever award in each league to the man with the most saves, but I can’t find a way to not give it to Wilson.  He lead the NL in saves with 48.  He had a better ERA (1.81) and a better WHIP (1.18) than Heath Bell and Carlos Marmol, my other top choices.  Marmol had more strikeouts (138 – 93), but he also walked twice as many batters.  Plus Wilson pitched many more pressure packed ninth innings in the heat of a pennant race.  Decision made.

Honourable Mention – Heath Bell (Padres), Carlos Marmol (Cubs)

Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young)

American League – Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

To me this is a no-brainer.  My top-three candidates (CC Sabathia, David Price, and Hernandez) all had terrific years, but there is only one winner here.  Despite having a record of only 13-12, he was the best pitcher by far:  

ERA – Felix: 2.27, Price: 2.72, CC: 3.18

WHIP – Felix: 1.057, CC: 1.191, Price: 1.193

IP – Felix: 249.2, CC: 237.2, Price: 208.2

Strikeouts – Felix: 232, CC: 197, Price: 188

ERA+ (taking into account park impact) – Felix: 174, Price: 145, CC: 134

Complete Games – Felix: 6, CC and Price: 2

I could go on.  The fact that he managed to win 13 games for a Mariners team that averaged only 3.10 runs per game for him is nothing short of miraculous.

Honourable Mention – CC Sabathia (Yankees), David Price (Rays)

National League – Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies

A number of good pitchers this year, but so many of them faded at the end.  Chris Carpenter had an ERA of 4.78 in September.  Adam Wainwright’s was 3.09 – good but his highest monthly ERA by over half a run.  Ubaldo Jimenez was far worse after his enormous start.  Josh Johnson was shut down for the season.  Roy Halladay got stronger as the innings went on, and ended leading the NL in wins (21), complete games (9), shutouts (4), innings pitched (250.2), and K:BB (7.30).  He also finished with a 2.44 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and a perfect game.  Not bad.

Honourable Mention – Adam Wainwright (Cardinals), Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies)

Stan Musial Award (MVP)

American League – Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

To me, MVP means the most valuable player to his team, not the player who had the best season.  It doesn’t matter if you play for the best team in the league or the worst.  My measuring stick for this award is a hypothetical one – if the player in question was to be removed from his team, what would happen?  That’s why you won’t see Robinson Cano on my list.  Was he good?  Yes.  But take him away, and all the Yankees have left is Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher, Mariano Rivera, CC Sabathia, etc. 

But take away Josh Hamilton, do the Texas Rangers still win the AL West?  Maybe, maybe not.  But they would be a far worse ball club.  His stats (.359 avg, 1.044 OPS, 32 HR, 100 RBI) are outstanding, but it’s what his team would be without him that is more telling.  Same story for Jose Bautista with the Jays and Miguel Cabrera in Detroit.  They almost single-handedly lifted their teams to higher heights.  But to me, Hamilton edges out Bautista for two reasons: 1) he lead him in every ratio category, (average – by a mile, OBP, SLUG, OPS) and 2) the Rangers without Hamilton don’t make the playoffs.  The Jays without Bautista are 10 games worse, but still a fourth place team.

Honourable Mention – Jose Bautista (Blue Jays), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)

National League – Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

Take away Pujols from the Cardinals and you still have Matt Holliday and a two-headed beast of a pitching rotation (Carpenter, Wainwright).  Take away Carlos Gonzalez from the Rockies and you still have Troy Tulowitzki, and vice-versa.  Take Joey Votto from the Reds and you have Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, and a bunch of rookie pitchers.  Good?  Sure.  NL Central Champions?  Not a chance.  It also doesn’t hurt that Votto nearly won the triple crown (.324 average, 37 HR, 113 RBI) and lead the NL in OBP (.424), SLUG (.600) and OPS (1.024)

Honourable Mention – Albert Pujols (Cardinals), Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies)

Simply Amazing

There really isn’t much to say about last night’s performance by Doc.

I know this is supposed to a Blue Jays blog, but how can you not be impressed?

I missed the first inning, but was home to see every other pitch that Halladay threw – and all of them were amazing. 

It’s not often that you see a pitcher in complete control as Halladay was.  I can honestly say that I was shocked when he walked Jay Bruce with two outs in the fifth.  He didn’t miss his spots all night. 

To me the most incredible thing about the no-hitter was this: he was never challenged.  In most no-hit bids, there is always one amazing play that keeps the bid intact.  Sometimes there are multiple plays.  Off the top of my head I remember Mark Buehrle’s gem last year with DeWayne Wise making an absurd catch to clinch it.  Or Vernon Wells crashing against the fence to preserve Brandon Morrow’s effort this year in Toronto.

But that didn’t happen last night.  Sure Travis Wood hit a line drive to the outfield, but Jayson Werth didn’t even have to move.  From my point of view, only four balls made the outfield last night – three fly outs and the lone liner to Werth.  Halladay struck out eight, induced 12 ground balls, and three pop outs.  It was dominance unlike I have ever seen before.

Scott Rolen had the quote of the night when he said “I wonder how many times I would have struck out if I kept going out there?”  Very accurate, because I truly believe Halladay could have gone 14 or 15 innings of no-hit ball.  That’s how flawless he was.

I did not get a chance to see Doc’s perfect game earlier in the year, but it’s hard to imagine him throwing any better than last night.

I know there are a few people in Toronto who want to see him fail, who feel betrayed by him leaving for Philly.

But I think I speak for the vast majority of Jays fans when I say I’m proud of him.  Sure he may technically be the “enemy” now, but it’s impossible to root against a guy who gave everything he had to this team and this city.

Congratulations Roy.  Welcome to Doctober.

The Obligatory Postseason Prediction Column

After reviewing my mid-season predictions in yesterday’s post, I didn’t really want to write another prediction column.  Let’s face it – I was terrible.

But there is also something inherently fun about making predictions, so here I am, unable to resist.  So without further stalling, here is one man’s take on who will advance out of the first round of the MLB Playoffs.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers

Playoff History

This is the Rangers fourth ever appearance in the playoffs, and the first since 1999 and the days of Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Rafael Palmeiro.  They have never won a postseason series.

Tampa is back for the second time in three years after losing in the World Series in 2008.

Regular Season Notes

A lot has been made about Texas finally winning with pitching, after years of having mound presence as their downfall.  They finished third in the AL with a 3.93 team ERA, just behind Tampa Bay’s 3.78.  But hold on – let’s not forget they played the inept offenses of Oakland, Seattle, and Los Angeles a total of 57 times.  Tampa Bay finished second while playing the huge bats of Toronto, New York, and Boston.  Advantage Rays.

Top Pitching Battle

David Price vs. Cliff Lee – the winner of these starts likely wins the series.

Top Player Battle

Evan Longoria vs. Josh Hamilton – two superstars who were injured a large portion of September.  Whoever appears to be healthier might be the biggest difference maker.

Prediction

All signs point to a close series, but I’ll take Tampa Bay because of home field advantage.  At 39-42, Texas has the worst road record of all AL playoff teams.  Rays in 5.

Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees

Playoff History

The Twins are back for the sixth time in nine years.  New York is always here. 

Regular Season Notes

Minnesota opened up Target Field this year, and all worries about them losing their Metrodome home field advantage quickly evaporated.  The Twins dominated at home, going 53-28, and have home field in this series.  But….they can’t beat New York.  A 2-4 record this year was actually an improvement over recent seasons.  The Yanks own the Twins, and that dominance could be in the Twins heads. 

Top Pitching Battle

Mariano Rivera vs. Matt Capps – New York hasn’t had a quality start from a pitcher not named CC in a LONG time, but Minny’s rotation doesn’t strike fear either.  The battle of the closers may be the most important matchup in the series.  If Capps falters, the Twins are done.

Top Player Battle

Robinson Cano vs. Delmon Young – Cano was horrendous in the postseason last year (.167 ALDS, .193 all playoffs), but Young was worse (.083 average).  With Jeter struggling, Teixeira banged up, and Morneau out, these two players are key.

Prediction

The Yankees have a better offense, a better closer, historical dominance, and the fact that they are the Yankees.  But they also have almost zero starting pitching, and the Twins have Target Field.  Call it an upset.  Twins in 5.

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Cincinnati Reds

Playoff History

Philly won the NL East for the fourth straight time and are looking to reach their third consecutive World Series.  Cincinnati is the Cinderalla of the playoffs, making the postseason for the first time since 1995 and finishing over .500 for the first time since 2000.

Regular Season Notes

The Phillies were banged up much of the year.  But after acquiring Roy Oswalt and getting healthy, they dominated, going 23-7 from September 1.  Their pitching is the best in the game, they can win with speed or power, and they owned the Reds this year.  But Cincinnati lead the NL in runs scored, so they have the ability to compete.

Top Pitching Battle

Ryan Madson vs. Aroldis Chapman – Philly’s starting rotation trumps Cincinnati’s, no doubt.  But if games are close, the series might rest with the set-up men.  Madson has been inconsistent in the playoffs, and Chapman – though he is a rookie – is a lefty who can throw 105 MPH.  Howard, Utley, and Ibanez all hit left-handed.

Top Player Battle

Jimmy Rollins vs. Brandon Phillips – Utley and Votto will get their hits.  It might boil down to which of these scrappy middle infielders performs better.  Rollins was hurt most of September and Phillips plain stunk.  Who gets it going first?

Prediction

With their starting three there’s no way Philly can lose.  Can they?  The Reds are overmatched, but Votto will not allow a sweep.  Phillies in 4.

San Francisco Giants vs. Atlanta Braves

Playoff History

Atlanta used to live here, but this marks their first appearance since 2005.  The last time San Fran was here a ‘roided buffoon named Barry Bonds was batting cleanup. 

Regular Season Notes

San Francisco had the top team ERA (3.36) in the National League, with a dominant top-3 of Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez.  But Atlanta (3.56) wasn’t far behind in third, so the pitching edge isn’t as big as you might think.  The biggest stat might be this: Atlanta was under .500 on the road, losing 21 more games than they lost at home.  Guess who has home field advantage?

Top Pitching Battle

Derek Lowe vs. Tim Lincecum – the Giants ace definitely has the edge, but Lowe has been to the playoffs six times and knows what to expect.  If San Fran’s playoff rookie has any jitters, they are in trouble.

Top Player Battle

Buster Posey vs. Jason Heyward – both are rookies and both are the most dangerous hitters on their respective teams.  Whoever cracks first loses.

Prediction

If Atlanta can steal game one, they will win.  If not, the Giants take it.  Giants in 4.

Looking Back at My Early Season Surprises and Disappointments

Sadly, Hill is still surprsing this year - in a bad way.

 

Back on May 11/12 I wrote two columns about baseball’s early season surprises – both good and bad.  One column was devoted to teams and one to players.

Today, in a great cop-out move that means I don’t have to do much thinking, I am having a look back on those early season suprises.  How many of them are still suprising and how many of them have reverted back to expectations?  Let’s have a look:

Early Season Surprise Teams

Blue Jays (Then 19-15, 3rd AL East, Now 63-56, 4th AL East)

Still a surprise.  Though they have fallen to 4th they are still light years ahead of the Orioles and look very much like they’ll finish above .500.  They still lead baseball in home runs, and the starting rotation is among the best in the game.

Angels (Then 15-19, 3rd AL West, Now 60-60, 2nd AL West)

Still a surprise.  Though they are playing much better now, injuries have taken a toll on the Angels.  Losing Kendry Morales for the year left them without a true slugger and the early season division favourites are miles behind Texas.

Mariners (Then 12-19, 4th AL West, Now 47-73, 4th AL West)

Still a surprise.  They were supposed to contend this year, but they have been horrendous.  The Bradley experiment didn’t work, Wakamatsu was fired, Griffey retired, Lee was traded, and Figgins can’t hit.  If not for Felix Hernandez, this would be the worst team in baseball.

Nationals (Then 18-14, 3rd NL East, Now 51-68, 5th NL East)

Back to expectations.  They got off to a quick start but not even the promotion of Strasburg could keep up the momentum.  Pudge and Willingham ended up hurt, and Livan Hernandez has been up and down.  But they still have Strasburg and with Bryce Harper signed the future looks bright.

Braves (Then 14-18, 5th NL East, Now 70-49, 1st NL East)

Back to expectations.  What a turnaround.  After a dismal start the Braves have gone 56-31 to take a 2.5 game lead over Philly.  Glaus, McCann, Hudson, Hanson, and Wagner have all taken turns carrying the team and Heyward continues to shine.  Playoffs are a possibility.

Padres (Then 19-12, 1st NL West, Now 71-47, 1st NL West)

Still a surprise.  The best record in the NL?  Incredible.  They haven’t slowed down at all and are now on the verge of reaching the postseason in a rebuilding year.  This year’s biggest surprise.

Early Season Surprise Players

Carlos Ruiz

Still surprising.  The Phillies catcher got off to a .354 start, over 100 points above his career average.   While he has fallen back to earth a little, he is still hitting at a .293 clip, including a .314 average in August to help the Phillies climb back in contention.

Alex Gonzalez

Regressing a bit.  His blazing early season start was a beautiful thing for the Jays, who leveraged that start to ship him to Atlanta for young SS Yunel Escobar.  His HR per AB has regressed considerably (1 in 13.7 at the time, 1 in 33.3 since), and his OPS has dropped by 74 points since the trade.  Still – better than expected.

Barry Zito

Back to expectations.  After making the early season surprise column with a record of 5-0 and a 1.49 ERA, the Giants lefty hasn’t been the same.  In 19 post-column starts he has gone 3-7 with a 4.29 ERA and 1.38 WHIP – numbers more on-line with his three previous “bust-like” years in San Francisco.

Tyler Clippard

Back to expectations.  Clippard’s number out of the Nationals bullpen now resemble those of a solid middle reliever: 9-6, 3.18 ERA, 1 save, 1.21 WHIP, 79 K.  They are also more in line with his career numbers and his season expectations, and nothing like the way he started the season – a Koufax-like 6-0, 0.76 ERA.

Aaron Hill

Still surprising.  I wish he was back to expectations, but sadly it has been a lost year for Hill.  When I wrote the original column he was scuffling at .190 with only 2 HR, but he was just coming off a hamstring injury.  Now, three months later, while the homers have come up (18), he is still hitting only .216 and has a career worst OPS of .682 (68th out of 77 qualifiers in the AL).  Not good.

Curtis Granderson

Still surprising.  Granderson has been brutal this year – .248 average and only 12 HR.  He has not been able to take advantage of the short porch at Yankee Stadium as expected, and now doesn’t even start every day for the Bombers.  Brutal.

Josh Beckett

Still surprising.  Or – still sucking.  He missed a lot of time due to injury, but still: 3-2 with a 6.51 ERA in August?  Come on.  After going 80-42 with a 3.92 ERA the previous five seasons, nobody could have seen this coming.  And he is actually getting worse, allowing 13 runs over 9.2 innings in his past two starts.  What an idiot.

Sometimes Things Do Go As Expected

Strasburg dominated the Pirates last night (image from daylife.com)

It has been a pretty crazy baseball season so far – and that’s just talking about the Blue Jays.  If a person had missed the first two months of the season and just recently glanced at Toronto’s team stats, many surprises would certainly stick out:

– The Jays are winning?

– Jose Bautista leads baseball in home runs?

– Toronto leads all of baseball as a team in home runs?  They’re on pace to break the MLB single season record?  What?

– Vernon Wells is alive?

– Aaron Hill is hitting .183?  Adam Lind is hitting .212?

But try extrapolating that study to the rest of Major League Baseball and you’ll find that to this point 2010 has been a season full of surprises.  The Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners, and San Diego Padres are peforming nowhere near their projected levels.  Likewise for Ubaldo Jimenez, Alex Rios, Ty Wigginton, Jake Peavy, and Prince Fielder.  While true that a lot of baseball is left to be played, the performances by these players and teams can no longer be chalked up to small sample sizes.  Their struggles and their dominance is for real.

Thankfully last night a feat happened in baseball that brought a bit of normalcy back to the game – Stephen Strasburg made his MLB debut for Washington.  As top pick of the 2009 draft, Strasburg was possibly the most hyped prospect of all time.  He completely dominated the minor leagues, and was expected by most to continue his success at the major league level.  Well – he did not disappoint.  7 IP, 2 ER, 14 K, and 0 BB for his first victory.  Though you can discount it a bit (it was against the Pirates) the bottom line is that he actually met expectations.  In this backwards season, that seems to be easier said than done.

Here are six more players/teams that are meeting expectations thus far:

1. Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays were expected to not only rebound from a disappointing ’09 and contend, but to be possibly the best team in baseball.  With a record of 38-20, they are in first overall and on pace for 106 wins.

2. New York Yankees

New York finishing near the top of the league is something that is taken for granted these days.  After winning another championship in ’09, and despite having an aging core, 2010 was expected to maintain the status-quo.  Currently at 36-22, New York is well on the way to another winning season, a feat they have grown accustomed to.  They haven’t finished below .500 since 1992.

3. Cleveland Indians / Kansas City Royals / Pittsburgh Pirates

Nothing screams normal more than a losing season by KC and Pittsburgh. With 17 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates are historically bad.  Take out the surprising 2003 season, and Kansas City has been below .500 every year since ’95.  Neither of those stats are changing this year.  Cleveland came within one game of the World Series in 2007, but since that time have lost CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Casey Blake, and Mark DeRosa.  Seen as a rebuilding year, 2010 was supposed to be bad.  At 21-36, it is.

4. Ichiro

Just as the Yankees and winning go hand-in-hand, so does Ichiro and .300.  Year in, year out, the Mariners leadoff hitter continues hitting and getting on base.  If his current average of .347 holds up (as it should) 2010 would mark the 10th consecutive season Ichiro has eclipsed the .300 level.

5. Miguel Cabrera

2009 couldn’t have ended worse for Miggy, with his Tigers blowing the AL Central crown at the end of year, and with him admitting that he has a drinking problem.  But an offseason spent getting sober and in peak condition brought big expectations for the first baseman.  And he has delivered.  He is currently close to leading all of baseball in the triple crown categories: .344 average, 17 HR, 52 RBI.

6. Roy Halladay

Already considered the most dominant pitcher in the game, the offseason trade to the weaker NL blew expectations for Doc through the roof.  So far he is making a mockery of the league: 8-3 record, 2.03 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 77 K’s vs. 13 BB.  He also leads the league with 5 complete games, 3 shutouts, and 93 innings pitched.  Oh – and he threw the 20th perfect game in MLB history.  Not bad.

Hell Freezes Over

Baseball is a crazy game.  Sometimes things happen that are so bizarre, so extreme, and so crazy that all you can do is simply shake your head.  Unlike other sports, when things happen in baseball we still feel shock or amazement.  Though players try to be innovative in basketball and hockey, fans have pretty much seen every variation of slam dunk and shootout shot that can be seen.

But baseball is different – the unexpected routinely takes place.  Look at what has happened so far this year, only about 1/3 of the way into the season:

– Dallas Braden, with a career record of 14-21, 4.68 ERA coming into this season, throws a perfect game

– Coming into this season there had been 18 perfect games in 130 years, or an average of one every 7+ years.  Three weeks after Braden’s gem, Roy Halladay does it again for the Phillies

– The Blue Jays hit six solo home runs in a game, accouting for all six of their runs, the first time that had happened in 90 years

– Angel Pagan starts a triple play and hits an inside-the-park home run in the same game

– A-Rod nearly decapitates Cleveland pitcher David Huff on a line drive, leaving the pitcher unconscious on the mound for several minutes yet without any serious injury

– Kendry Morales breaks his leg after jumping on home plate to celebrate a walk-off grand slam, potentially injuring himself for the rest of the season

But of all the things that have happened this year, the strangest (for me, BY FAR the strangest) happened this afternoon.  Bottom of the third in Houston, with nobody out and nobody on, this man hit a home run for the Astros:

That’s right – Gustavo Chacin went deep for the ‘Stros this afternoon.

Again – Chacin hit a bomb. 

The Gustavo Chacin.  The same Gus who pitched for the Blue Jays from 2004 – 2007.  The same Chacin who finished 5th in AL Rookie of the Year voting in ’05, after going 13-9 with a 3.72 ERA for Toronto.  The very same Mr. Chacin who became “famous” for a Chacin cologne night in Toronto in 2006.

And the very same Gustavo Chacin who was charged with driving under the influence in 2007, released in 2008, and bounced around the minor leagues for the last few years. 

I never thought I would ever lay eyes on the hairless wonder again, but to my surprise Houston signed him, and on May 7th he made his NL debut, over three years removed from his last major league appearance.  Including today he has made six appearances, with no decisions and a surprisingly effective 1.86 ERA.

But if there was ever to be a player this season to hit a home run, to have more home runs than players like Chone Figgins, Rafael Furcal, Ken Griffey Jr, Grady Sizemore, and Elvis Andrus combined?  I would have bet everything I possibly could have that it would NOT be a man with zero career hits.

I would have guaranteed that it would not be Gustavo Chacin.

But that is why this game is so great.  Because sometimes hell does freeze over. same sites . expired domains expiration of domains . apache web server website offline link checker .

Early MLB Surprises – Player Edition

Continued from below, here is part two of 2010’s early season surprises – player edition.

Carlos Ruiz – Catcher, Philadelphia Phillies

Ruiz currently sits 4th overall in the major leagues with a .354 average, leading the Phillies to a first place perch in the NL East.  Carlos is a career .246 hitter, and with well over 1,000 career AB it seems outrageous to think that he can keep this start going.  Enjoy it while it lasts Phillies fans.

Alex Gonzalez – Shortstop, Toronto Blue Jays

Signed primarily for his defense, Gonzalez has been lights out power-wise for the Jays in the early part of 2010.  His 10 HR are tied for the second-most in baseball and give him two more than he had in all of 2009 (391 AB).  While he has shown traces of power in his career before (23 bombs in 2004 with Florida), he is knocking balls over the fence with much more frequency than anybody could have imagined (1 HR per 13.7 AB this year, 1 HR per 38.5 AB the rest of his career).

Continue reading Early MLB Surprises – Player Edition

Early MLB Surprises – Team Edition

With 480 games in the books, the 2010 MLB season is almost 20% complete.  Although sample sizes are still relatively small, they’re not too small to start talking about early season surprises.  Below are six teams that have surprised through the first month and change of the season, either in positive or negative fashion.  Stay tuned later for seven surprising players.

Toronto Blue Jays (19-15, 3rd AL East)

Not much was expected of the Jays this year.  Losing Roy Halladay in the offseason left them with a gigantic, irreplaceable hole in the starting rotation.  They entered the season with what appeared to be glaring weaknesses at 3B, SS, 1B, C, and closer, had five inexperienced starters, and employed a CF who is widely regarded to have the worst contract in baseball.  Fifth place was a lock.  But through 34 games the Jays have won more than they’ve lost, currently sit ahead of the Boston Red Sox in the division, and are playing with a swagger and confidence that was non-existent last season.  Alex Gonzalez, John Buck, and Kevin Gregg have performed much better than expected, and the rotation has been rock solid.  As for that overpaid outfielder? Vernon Wells is playing like it’s 2006, and that’s a good thing!

Los Angeles Angels (15-19, 3rd AL West)

Winners of five of the past six AL West titles, including three straight, the Angels were expected to have a much tougher fight this year after losing Vladimir Guerrero, John Lackey, and Chone Figgins.  Still – this start is much worse than expected.  Baseball’s 4th lowest OBP and 6th highest ERA can be held responsible. Continue reading Early MLB Surprises – Team Edition